WINNIPEG — A man acquitted of killing a Winnipeg teenager following two trials and more than a decade behind bars is suing the Manitoba government and police for wrongful conviction and imprisonment.
Mark Edward Grant alleges in the lawsuit that he was subjected to a “never-ending nightmare” in prison due to negligence by police and prosecutors in a dogged pursuit for a conviction in the killing of 13-year-old Candace Derksen.
Grant also says he is still harassed by people on the street.
“The police improperly developed tunnel vision because of their desire to solve the case,” says the statement of claim filed Wednesday in Winnipeg’s Court of Queen’s Bench.
Grant is seeking more than $8 million in damages and other costs.
The allegations have not been tested in court.
Candace disappeared while walking home from school in November 1984. Worry about the missing girl gripped the city and a massive search effort followed.
Her frozen body was found six weeks later in an industrial shed — the cause of death was hypothermia. Her hands and feet had been bound with twine.
The case sat unsolved for more than 20 years until, the lawsuit says, two unreliable witnesses came forward pointing to Grant.
He was arrested in 2007 after a DNA test that the Crown argued linked him to the twine found on the girl. He was convicted of second-degree murder in 2011 and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
The lawsuit alleges that while behind bars Grant was harassed by other inmates, didn’t receive help from guards and was stabbed four times.
In 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned that conviction ruling the trial judge erred when it didn’t allow Grant’s defence to submit evidence about another possible killer.
The year following Candace’s disappearance, a 12-year-old girl was found tied up in another part of Winnipeg. Grant was in custody on a different matter at the time.
A new trial in 2017 heard that DNA samples used to link Grant to the murder had deteriorated significantly before they were tested. The judge agreed the DNA evidence was flawed and Grant was found not guilty.
Candace’s parents have said they continue to believe Grant killed their daughter but they did not want the Crown to appeal after the acquittal.
Manitoba has a high rate of wrongful convictions, which include the cases of Kyle Unger, Thomas Sophonow and James Driskell. Grant’s lawsuit says it demonstrates a systemic problem “suggesting that Crown attorneys are generally more interested in winning than furthering the ends of justice.”
“The prosecuting defendants clearly pursued the prosecution of Mark Grant despite significant evidence demonstrating innocence.”
The lawsuit adds that Grant always maintained his innocence and has now lost trust in the justice system and society in general. He has also experienced an “utter loss of confidence in himself.”
It alleges he’s been publicly spat on, assaulted by random strangers and was once told by a person on the street that he should have been killed in jail.
“Mark Grant continues to this day to be a pariah,” says the suit.
This report by The Canadian Press was originally published on Oct. 17, 2019.
Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press